Last flight of the Atlantis

Atlantis on launch pad

Space Shuttle Atlantis on the launch pad before its final flight.

I was 8 years old when the first shuttle flight in 1981 occurred and space was still huge for us kids.  The space race wasn’t like it was in 1969 but the shuttle was kind of the end of that era – the last real big development. It was supposed to be the beginning of just being able to fly into space like on an airplane flight.  I was quite into astronomy and the idea of being an astronaut was highly compelling.  I always loved that one of the shuttles was named Atlantis – so strange they seem to always use names that evoke patriotism or American Exceptionalism (Challenger, Freedom, Opportunity, Discovery, etc). Atlantis was of course an island country that was destroyed for invoking the wrath of the gods.  It does of course have a sense of discovery, the unknown but also seems like a warning against hubris and overreach. Likewise with my Rivendell Atlantis, I’ve always liked that dual notion of exploration but within seemingly some limits.  Again a rather strange name for a touring bicycle, where dreams are part of the marketing.

Atlantis Headbadge Of course as Wikipedia tells us the shuttle was named after the RV Atlantis,  which a two-masted sailing ship that operated as the primary research vessel for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution from 1930 to 1966. Considering the headbadge on Riv’s Atlantis that is likely the inspiration as well. But considering that Riv founder Grant Peterson would be about the prime age for the space race I wouldn’t be surprised if referencing the shuttle was part of the package. I at least like to think of the space shuttle Atlantis when I think of my Atlantis.  And so it is today, that the thirty year shuttle program winds down with the final flight of the Atlantis.  There is great video and lots of fantastic photos over at NASA’s site, but I love that photo I put at the top of the entry. America in many ways seems in decline and the final flight of the shuttle program seems like another sign of the times.  Farewell old friend, I’ll think of you when I’m next on my Atlantis.

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